THE ORIGINAL ZONING for this site, an acre and a quarter in size, called for a rectangular three-story hotel or motel with a typical parking lot configuration. This, of course, was very different from what the developers of Bay Street Cottages had in mind. “The developer had the idea to do condos but wanted to make them separate buildings,” says architect Robert B. Sears, “so we approached the planning commission with loose sketches.”

The planning board had nothing on the books as a precedent to approve the project, which drew on the architecture of cottages along Lake Michigan's Little Traverse Bay. But the members liked what they saw so much that they asked for detailed plans. After much back-and-forth, the planning commission rewrote the local zoning code and approved the project.

Part of the challenge for the team, Sears says, was that each home had to be designed as the new zoning laws were being written. As a result, the homes' sizes vary from 975 to 1,200 square feet. Featuring characteristics of smart growth and new urbanism, front porches and green spaces focus on pedestrians. Each cottage has a garage plus one outdoor assigned parking spot.

Primarily upscale second homes and cottages, the houses had to be low maintenance. The design team used cedar shingles, board and batten, and clapboard siding, while standing seam metal, asphalt, and cedar top the roofs. To give the development character, the elevation, color, and exterior materials for each home is different. Luxury interiors are outfitted with such high-end names as Waterworks and Sub-Zero.

“The project was a huge team effort,” Sears says. “We could not have pulled it off without each other.” The result, he says, is a high-quality project made for people who want to make friends and enjoy their neighbors' company.

CATEGORY: Cluster community; ENTRANT/ BUILDER/INTERIOR DESIGNER: The Cottage Co. of Harbor Springs, Harbor Springs, Mich.; ARCHITECT: Sears Architects, Grand Rapids, Mich.; LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT: Litzenburger Landscape, Harbor Springs

Builder Tip Door Ways

Designing a pedestrian- friendly urban community requires certain elements and features to be successful. Naturally, every little bit helps. For the Bay Street Cottages, architect Robert Sears turned to the front door for assistance. “It's an arch-top Dutch door that has two panels that can be operated independently of each other,” he says. “You can open the top part so the breeze can come in, and it fosters interaction with neighbors walking by.”

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Grand Rapids, MI.